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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Cabinet has decided to extend the COVID-19 alert levels for New Zealand.
“On the advice of the Director-General, Cabinet has decided on a short extension to the current restrictions of Alert Level 2.5 for Auckland, and Level 2 for the rest of the country.”
It’s been two weeks and one transmission cycle of the virus ever since Auckland moved to ‘level 2.5’ — during that time there were a further 36 cases in the community that were all associated with Auckland’s more comprehensive cluster, most people were already isolated that had a known link to the cluster.
“Since Auckland moved out of level 3 restrictions two weeks ago, widespread testing that is roughly double what it was at Level 1 has occurred. Over 100,000 tests have taken place nationwide that have not shown up any spread of the virus to other parts of New Zealand despite the resumption of inter-regional travel.”
When a sub-cluster that emerged during the last two weeks, it was related to a bereavement associated with Mt Roskill Evangelical Church and lead to 15 more cases.
Cabinet made a decision to move down from Alert Level 2 to a Level 1, as Level 2 has gone on for 26 days.
“More than two transmission cycles and had gone 17 days without any new cases of Covid-19 in the country. That was to give ourselves confidence that any move back to level 1 would stick.”
During level ‘2.5’ as Jacinda Ardern calls it, there were cases emerging every day in the community’ bar one’.
“While no new community cases is not a measure in and of itself for moving down levels, as we know more cases will emerge from this clusters tail, these cases can continue to pose risks. So while our aim is to speedily move down alert levels safely, we also need to be focused on the future, on getting back to Level 1, but in a sustained way and not rushing.”
The Government is cautious about returning to Alert Level 1 fast mainly because they want to monitor case numbers for a little while longer so it’s safe to do so.
For Auckland, Cabinet says they will review the current ‘Level 2.5’ at a meeting on Monday, September 21, with a sense of increasing gathering limits for Auckland.
“If we are in a similar position with containing the cluster. If that change was agreed, this would come into effect on Wednesday, September 23.”
The rest of the county will remain at Alert Level 2. Cabinet has agreed in faith that at 11.59 pm on Monday, September 21, the rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 1 settings.
“As I said we haven’t had many days without new cases appearing in Auckland and it only requires one person travelling and attending a super-spreader event somewhere else in the country and we could be looking at further restrictions everywhere. So the level 2 precautions we have in place continue to act as a safety barrier for flair ups in the rest of New Zealand.”
“As a result of the extra measures we have in place at Level 2 in Auckland, and in particular the good uptake of our requirement that people wear a mask on public transport, today I can confirm that we will ease physical distancing requirements on planes and public transport.”
From Monday, September 14, which is an immediate in-place response; public transport, including airlines like Air New Zealand etc, buses and trains do not need to maintain any sitting restrictions or passenger capacity limits at Alert Level 2.
However, Mask use will be continuing as compulsory on public transport.
“I know this change will make a real difference to Air New Zealand and those parts of the country seeking increased numbers of visitors, and the change made demonstrates the willingness on the Government’s behalf to constantly review our settings, with everyone’s health at the top of our minds.”
“Our plan is working, but it needs just a little more time. Like last time when we moved from level 2 to level 1 with caution, we experienced a strong bounce back in economic activity which is what we are seeking again. Protecting our current gains, expanding on them and keeping people safe from the virus remains the best long term strategy for the country.”
“The guidelines everyone has followed have kept us safe, saved lives, and helped us get the economy moving quicker than most other countries around the world – we played the short game well because we had our eye on the future.”
“We need to keep our eyes on that prize and take the actions to match so we can get to Level 1 again.”
Image courtesy: Hannah Peters/Getty
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